Why Values Are Important to Athletes Transitioning to a Career After Sports

Transitioning to a career after sports isn’t easy. For most athletes, the blood, sweat, tears and time invested into the sport they love has left little time to think about loving anything else nearly as much. This is why when you are coming to the end of your athletic career, the most important thing to do is find out what could matter to you in a life not consumed by sports. You must be able to answer the question, what do I truly value?

Why is this so important?

Well, after playing sports for the majority of their lives, most athletes must find a way to make a living when they decide to finally walk away. But for some athletes, this is easier said than done.

Because they have spent their entire lives loving something they can no longer pursue and need to make money following retirement, many athletes often rush into a career they truly do not have a passion for. Even though you may end up being good at what you do, eventually your lack of passion for that career choice can lead to burnout and resentment toward those around you.

This is why it is so important to establish what you value before your career ends, or early in your first career after sports.

Establishing what is important to you and determining your values before you leave your sport is the ideal route to take, but it can also happen while you are supporting yourself too. As the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” If you fall in this category where you do not yet know what you value, it is okay. You just need to be open to change as other plans and opportunities come along and do not be scared to walk away. Most importantly, learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to outline three potential scenarios you may find yourself in IF you do not know what you value outside of sports. If you ask any athlete who has transitioned to a career after sports, I am willing to bet they found themselves in one of these three at some point.

No. 1: You run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

When you do not know what you value most, it is easy to go out into the real world just wanting to succeed at anything.

As a former athlete, you are likely still feeling accomplished from your athletic career, which is clearly a feeling you do not want to give up. You identify as an athlete and athletes achieve, right?

What can happen in the pursuit of success is you may start working in too many areas in the pursuit of quick success. The problem is, you are likely not 100 percent passionate about the majority of those areas, but pursue them anyway because you think you will experience success in at least one.

The plot then thickens when you reach a milestone, the top of the corporate ladder or begin earning a ton of money, but you feel emptiness because you are not passionate about it. At this point, your “athletes achieve” scenario can take over, forcing you to continue pressing on to continue achieving success.

On the flip side, because you focus on so many different areas, you may not see the kind of success you want because you do not care enough to devote all your attention to one specific path. Thus, you will never truly know if one stood out for you since the desire to “achieve” outweighed your non-existent personal values.

The moral of the story? It is important to determine your values before you find that nothing “feels right” in your pursuit of success.

No. 2: You end up people pleasing.

Do you really want to be the owner of a restaurant or did someone convince you that it was a good investment? Do you really want to get your degree in a certain field or did someone say it was a smart career move?

One of the most difficult things for an athlete is learning how to say “no” to those closest to you. When you do not know what you value, it is easy to bite off more than you can chew and listen to what people around you THINK you value.

There is great power in mentorship and seeking help, but it is not wise to let others make your life decisions for you. Bouncing ideas off others is one thing, but decisions that will affect your life should be solely yours to make.

If you find something that pulls at your soul and you can figure out how to parlay that into a career, go for it! People always think they know what is best for you, and sometimes we follow their advice because it is the easy route. You cannot please everyone you encounter. Knowing your values is a huge responsibility, but it also leads to greater fulfillment.

No. 3: You drift through life.

Drifting means you are just existing in the world. There is no flavor, no excitement and no fulfillment. This is what I call “empty comfort.”

You may be doing well at work, but feel there is no meaning to your life. You may have a great family and friends (this is obviously extremely important), but you feel deep down there is something else you should be doing.

You know you have a deeper calling than just being an athlete. It might be big or small, but you still feel called to do it. By not capitalizing on this opportunity, you might wake up later in life and have regrets because you had the opportunity to follow what was in your heart, but didn’t. Don’t drift through your life, find what you love and go after it.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what you value puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life. By knowing, you are not at the mercy of someone else’s expectations and you have the opportunity to experience greater fulfillment because your decisions are your own. This applies to every aspect of your life, not just your career. Being aware of your values has an effect on who you choose as friends, what you spend your free time doing and not pursuing activities that do not serve your greater purpose.

You will still make mistakes and probably experience some failure too, but at least those experiences will be your own. You have to decide that you want to fill your life with things that matter to you. When this is done, you will find that you are more resilient in the face of adversity, and above all else, it helps you create standards for your life.

Your decisions will not be based on society, your friends or even your family. You can rest easy knowing that everything you choose to do will be based off the values you established.

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